AUGUSTA, GA – The stage is set for the final round of the 76th Masters and Phil Mickelson looms ominously a shot behind the current leader Peter Hanson as the players head out for the final 18 holes at Augusta National. Many of the pre-tournament favourites have struggled to live up to expectations but there still are a number of players who hold strong claims with nine players within five shots of the lead.
Phil Mickelson has been installed as the 8/5 favourite (bet £5 to make £8 profit) with Bwin following his superb third-round 66 which propelled him to within a shot of the lead. He will hope to take home his fourth Green Jacked in nine years which will move him into a tie for second on the all-time Masters champions list, two behind the legend Jack Nicklaus. Mickelson has a great record at Augusta and his experience of the pressurized environment of the final group should help him to close out victory today. Phil has hit 32 out of 54 greens in regulation and his putter has been on fire as he tops the putting statistic with an average of 1.43 putts per hole. The winner has come from the final group in 19 of the last 21 Masters and so much of the in-running money today will come for the top pair in the betting.
The Swede Peter Hanson heads into the final round with a one stroke advantage and he is bidding to win his maiden major title at this famous course in only his second appearance in the Masters. Hanson made a late surge on Saturday but faces a formidable test on Sunday. He will play alongside Mickelson, a man who beat Hanson 4&2 in their singles match at the 2010 Ryder Cup, in the final group but he will need to focus on his own game to have any chance of holding on to his lead here. Hanson is an industry best price of 9/2 with totesport.
Louis Oosthuizen has struggled since winning his maiden major title at St Andrews in the British Open but three decent rounds has left him in contention on seven under par here. He can be backed at 6/1 with Betfred and punters will hope he can fare better than he did in the final round of the Shell Houston Open last week. He shot a three over par 75 on Sunday last week to finish in a tie for third and he will hope to bounce back from that disappointment with a strong performance on Sunday, at Augusta.
The big-hitting Bubba Watson is quoted at 8/1 with Skybet and he begins the final round on six-under par. He will partner Oosthuizen in the penultimate group and he has played some flamboyant golf this week but he is a player that has always struggled to assert his dominance on a field on the final day on the Tour.
Fifth-placed Matt Kuchar is four shots adrift on five-under par and he is currently a best price of 18/1 with Paddy Power. He is one of a number of American players at the top of the field and he should have been far closer to compatriot Mickelson but two bogeys in the final six holes cost him before he managed to birdie the 18th hole for the third consecutive day.
Last week’s winner Hunter Mahan still has a chance of following on from his success in Houston with a first major triumph. He is one of four players on four under par and he will need a special round to catch the market leaders today. He is priced up at 25/1 with most firms, including bet365 and William Hill.
Another Swede still has an outside chance of picking up the Green Jacket and Henrik Stenson is available at 45/1 with Skybet. He was the standout player on Thursday but a quadruple bogey eight cost him the lead and he has shown great mental character to recover from that disaster. If he can master the tough pin positions on this final day he could set an imposing clubhouse lead for his fellow countryman Hanson to chase as the day progresses.
Lee Westwood started Saturday’s round one shot behind Fred Couples and Jason Dufner and he birdied the second to move into a share of the lead. The world number three was looking strong at that stage but four bogeys from holes seven to thirteen sent him tumbling down the leaderboard. Westwood currently heads the green in regulation statistic, managing to find the putting surface on 44 of the 54 holes he has played over the opening three rounds. Punters who predict an English winner of the Masters can back Westwood at 20/1 with bet365.
The pre-tournament favourites Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have both been off-form this week and currently sit at +5 and +1 respectively. Tiger struggled during his second round playing some of the worst golf of his career, missing short putts and he soon became very frustrated kicking his clubs across the Augusta turf which was a sorry sight for fans of the former world number one. Rory was in contention for a large part of this tournament but on moving day yesterday he stuttered, opening up with a double bogey six at the first hole. His round got worse from there as he went on to shoot a five over par 77 which all-but ended his chance of winning the season’s first major. The largest comeback in Masters history was back in 1956 when Jackie Burke came from eight strokes behind to snatch the Green Jacket and so it would take some feat for either player to be involved here.
The final round of the Masters gets underway at 14.20 GMT and the action is broadcast live on Sky Sports and BBC and 19.00 GMT.